An Act for the Substantive Equality of Canada's Official Languages

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

Sponsor

Status

Second reading (House), as of May 20, 2022

Subscribe to a feed (what's a feed?) of speeches and votes in the House related to Bill C-13.

Elsewhere

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.

Votes

May 20, 2022 Passed Time allocation for 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

Act for the Substantive Equality of Canada’s Official LanguagesGovernment Orders

May 20th, 2022 / 1:30 p.m.
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Conservative

Joël Godin Conservative Portneuf—Jacques-Cartier, QC

Madam Speaker, thank you for your kind description of my speech.

Today is the second time I rise in the House to speak to the bill to modernize official languages. What parliamentarians are trying to do here today is establish rules to stop the decline of French, protect it and promote it. I am obviously talking about the modernization of the Official Languages Act.

Of the two official languages, French is definitely the more vulnerable. It is clear that we will be speaking more French. However, I think we need to take pride in living in a country that is unique in its bilingualism, French and English, and we need to safeguard this unique character. Our country must still have two official languages in 50 years.

I am concerned about what this government wants to do. In recent weeks, very specific actions have shown us that this government is insensitive, it is not paying attention, and it has no intention of really protecting French, promoting it and stopping its decline. I have many examples to talk about. The list is very long, but I will try to restrain myself.

The Liberal government appointed a unilingual lieutenant governor in 2019, since that falls under its purview. She actually is bilingual, but her other language is not the second official language of our country. That is the first inconsistency I wanted to point out. It is rather odd.

A provincial court judge in New Brunswick recently ruled that it was unconstitutional to appoint a unilingual anglophone lieutenant governor. We were pleased with that ruling. We realize that we are in a bilingual country. New Brunswick is the only officially bilingual province in Canada. However, the government appointed a unilingual lieutenant governor, so obviously that was wrong.

We learned this week that the federal government is going to appeal that ruling because it argues that it makes no sense and does not hold up under the pretext that it is not a provincial matter. The only body that can enforce bilingualism in our country at this time is the federal government, and it is fighting a decision that would help it enforce bilingualism. Three Liberal members from the Atlantic provinces have even publicly challenged their own government's decision. It is rather odd. Even within the party in power, people are worried.

To add insult to injury, once again the government is challenging a ruling on the protection of French. That is rather odd. I should also point out that, just recently, the government made a veiled attempt to challenge the Federal Court of Appeal ruling of January 2022 to allow francophones in British Columbia to have access to services in French. It is rather peculiar that the Attorney General of Canada wants to appeal this Supreme Court of Canada ruling.

There are also the press conferences that are held in English only by certain Canadian government ministers. I would remind members that this is a bilingual country that speaks French and English. When the Minister of Environment and Climate Change's briefing was released, Hélène Buzzetti tweeted that the information was issued in English only. However, we are probably the ones who are worried for no reason. Everything is just fine.

I am sure that deep down, the Minister of Official Languages, a woman I respect, is trying to protect bilingualism in Canada, but she has to fight for it within her own party. She is a representative from New Brunswick.

This week, after refusing several times to answer journalists' questions, she was forced to say that she supported her government's decision to challenge the ruling on the matter of the Lieutenant Governor.

Here in the House, members are asking numerous questions about bilingualism and the French language. We see who will answer the questions. The Minister of Official Languages is always ready to answer, but she is being cut off and the floor is being given to someone else. That is rather strange.

I read and reread Bill C‑13, and it includes some good measures. As my colleague from Rimouski‑Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques was saying earlier, it contains some positive elements. However, it is not much when we think about what needs to be done to stop the decline of French and protect and promote the language of Molière. We need to work.

In my first speech the other day, I said that I was reaching out to the government to help it so that we can have real legislation with real teeth. As I have said before, Bill C‑13 is pretty wimpy. Canada's French colony needs legislation that packs a real punch, legislation with real teeth, so that we have the measures and regulations we need to protect the French fact in Canada.

I repeat that I have the privilege of serving on the Standing Committee on Official Languages. The last time the Official Languages Act was modernized was in 1988 when the Conservative Party of Canada was in office. We are prepared to work with the government. We intend to protect the French fact and to suggest good amendments to the bill. I invite all parties to participate in the committee study of Bill C‑13.

On this Friday, I state loud and clear that the Conservative Party of Canada is prepared to reach out to the Liberal government so that we can get the job done right and protect the French fact in North America.

Act for the Substantive Equality of Canada’s Official LanguagesGovernment Orders

May 20th, 2022 / 1:25 p.m.
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Conservative

Joël Godin Conservative Portneuf—Jacques-Cartier, QC

Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague from Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques for his intervention. I think he and I share the same concern for the French fact. His concern is focused more on French in Quebec, while the French fact as a whole, in Quebec and across Canada, is what matters to me.

My colleague said that he is not in favour of Bill C‑13. He gave an ultimatum. I am privileged to be a member of the Standing Committee on Official Languages together with his colleague from La Pointe-de-l'Île.

If amendments were put forward by the Bloc Québécois, the Conservative Party, the NDP and probably the Liberal Party of Canada too, would my colleague be prepared to work with us to advance the cause, promote French and protect it from declining?

Act for the Substantive Equality of Canada’s Official LanguagesGovernment Orders

May 20th, 2022 / 1:15 p.m.
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Bloc

Maxime Blanchette-Joncas Bloc Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques, QC

Madam Speaker, I am pleased today to speak to Bill C-13, which is particularly important to the Bloc Québécois.

Today's strategy from the Liberals, supported by the NDP, was to move time allocation on a bill that is vital to protecting French in Quebec as well as in the rest of Canada.

Bill C‑13, which is currently under consideration, represents the culmination of efforts to modernize the Official Languages Act. This objective is set out in the mandate letter of the current Minister of Official Languages, as well as that of her predecessor.

In the September 2020 Speech from the Throne, the government recognized the special status of French and its responsibility to protect and promote it, both outside and within Quebec.

The stage seemed to be set for the federal government to protect French in Quebec. It appeared the government would include the reform, requests and demands of those dealing with the decline of their language on a daily basis, namely Quebeckers.

However, in both Bill C-32 from the previous Parliament and the current version, the Official Languages Act reform completely ignores the demands made unanimously by the Quebec National Assembly and the Bloc Québécois about protecting French in Quebec.

In fact, the federal government's bill flies in the face of the Quebec National Assembly's Bill 96. One of the objectives of Bill 96 is to extend the application of the Charter of the French Language throughout Quebec. Despite that, in their interventions and communications, the Liberals claim to support Bill 101 and brag about being champions of the French language.

Since the Prime Minister and Liberal members claim that they have always supported the Charter of the French Language, how can they introduce a bill that will prevent the Quebec government from applying that charter within its own territory? Based on a 2007 Supreme Court ruling, provincial laws can apply to federally regulated businesses as long as they do not directly violate any applicable federal law.

Quebec has long been asking Ottawa to allow Bill 101 to apply to federally regulated businesses based on that ruling. A resolution supported by all parties in the Quebec National Assembly and adopted on December 1, 2020, stated that the Charter of the French Language “must be applied to companies operating under federal jurisdiction within Québec” and called on the Government of Canada to “make a formal commitment to work with Québec to ensure the implementation of this change”.

The message could not be any clearer, but what did the Liberals do at the first opportunity? They imposed on Quebec a language regime that subjects all federally regulated businesses to the Official Languages Act, while at the same time destroying Quebec's ability to apply its Charter of the French Language to businesses operating on its territory.

That should not be taken lightly. There is even a serious and real danger for French in Quebec with Bill C‑13. In the event of a difference between the federal regime, which is based on bilingualism, and Quebec's regime, which is based on the primacy of French, the federal regime would prevail.

The Minister of Official Languages can repeat as much as she wants that Bill C‑13 will protect French in Quebec as well as Bill 101, but that is not true. It is factually incorrect.

Bill C‑13 seeks to apply the bilingualism regime to Air Canada. Francophones will be given the right to complain in the event that the right to work in French is breached. It has been shown many times that this model cannot protect the rights of francophones to work and be served in their language. Despite the thousands of complaints against Air Canada over the years, we see that for these non-compliant organizations, French is nothing but an irritant. How will extending this model to all federally regulated private business stop the decline of French?

What is more, Bill C‑13 confirms the right to work in English at federally regulated businesses in Quebec. I repeat, the Official Languages Act is reinforcing bilingualism, not protecting French. Some will say that the bilingualism approach seems reasonable at first glance. It leaves it up to the individual to interact in the language of their choice. However, when we take into account the linguistic and demographic dynamics in which that choice is made, this approach has devastating and irreversible consequences on French. Do not take it from me. It is science.

Professor Guillaume Rousseau from Université de Sherbrooke explained this phenomenon to the Standing Committee on Official Languages in February:

...virtually all language policy experts around the world believe that only [an approach that focuses on just one official language] can guarantee the survival and development of a minority language....

The...approach may seem generous, since individuals may choose which language to use among many, but it is in fact the strongest language that will dominate....In real terms, the federal government should do less for English and more for French in Quebec.

As my party's science and innovation critic, I must insist on the importance of basing our decisions on scientific data. Ottawa must listen to reason, listen to the science and respect the evidence. Science cannot be invoked only when it suits our purposes and ignored when it does not, and the Prime Minister needs to take that into account.

When we look around the House of Commons, we quickly see that the Liberal Party stands completely alone when it comes to the application of Bill 101 to federally regulated businesses. It has always been easy for the Prime Minister to say that he is in favour of Bill 101 as long as that did not require him to take any action, politically speaking. Today, it is clear that French is declining in Quebec and Canada and that its decline is accelerating so fast that the Prime Minister himself has been forced to recognize it and express concern. He still says that he is in favour of Bill 101, but he is not walking the talk.

We are witnessing yet another attempt by the Liberal government to create a wide, untenable gap. On the one hand, the government wants to be the champion of French because it feels the public pressure to protect French better, including in Quebec. On the other hand, it completely refuses to let Quebec control its own language policy. The result is that the Liberal Party now stands alone in its stubbornness. We saw that when my colleague from Salaberry—Suroît introduced Bill C-238, which seeks to subject all federally regulated businesses to the Charter of the French Language. The Bloc, the Conservative Party and the NDP supported it, but the Liberal Party did not.

Let me make this clear. The Bloc Québécois will not support Bill C‑13 unless and until amendments are made that enable Quebec to be the master of its own language policy. The federal government must acknowledge that the Quebec nation is grappling with anglicization, and it must introduce a differentiated approach that recognizes and respects Quebec's unique linguistic reality. That is why explicit recognition that the Charter of the French Language takes precedence over the Official Languages Act for federally regulated businesses in Quebec is a minimum requirement. That is what the Bloc Québécois and the National Assembly of Quebec want, so that is what Quebec needs.

Official LanguagesOral Questions

May 20th, 2022 / 11:45 a.m.
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Bloc

Christine Normandin Bloc Saint-Jean, QC

Madam Speaker, when she talked about the bill having teeth, the minister failed to mention something important. Bill C-13 allows businesses to voluntarily become subject to the Charter of the French Language. She is well aware of the difference between voluntary and mandatory.

If Bill C‑13 passes, Bill 96 will apply to businesses only if they so choose. I find it hard to believe this was not prearranged, knowing how plenty of Liberals feel about protecting French. The reality in Quebec is that it is French that must be protected.

Does the minister understand that she is actually protecting the anglicization of workplaces with Bill C‑13?

Official LanguagesOral Questions

May 20th, 2022 / 11:45 a.m.
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Bloc

Christine Normandin Bloc Saint-Jean, QC

Madam Speaker, while Quebec is in the midst of debating Bill 96, Ottawa is trying to thwart one of the bill's main measures.

Ottawa's Bill C‑13 would prevent Quebec from applying the Charter of the French Language to federally regulated businesses. We need to protect the French language in Quebec, yet Ottawa is protecting the English language at work. On top of that, the Liberals are in a rush. They just moved closure on Bill C‑13 to limit debate as much as possible.

Is this because they are afraid Quebeckers will rally against this bill, which does not protect the right language in Quebec?

Bill C-13—Time Allocation MotionOfficial Languages ActGovernment Orders

May 20th, 2022 / 10:35 a.m.
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Liberal

Ginette Petitpas Taylor Liberal Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe, NB

Madam Speaker, again, I think that we recognize that Bill C-13 is a really important piece of legislation. Yes, debate has happened in the House. This is the fourth day, but we want this debate to continue. There have been a lot of games that have been played over the past number of weeks, and we certainly do not want to see this bill stalled. Canadians are expecting us to take action when it comes to official languages, and people are watching this debate very closely.

That is why we are moving forward with making sure that we finish the debate today in the House. From there, the committees will be able to do the important work that they have to do.

The committee's work is independent. It is going to be able to look at this bill and make the proper assessment of it.

Bill C-13—Time Allocation MotionOfficial Languages ActGovernment Orders

May 20th, 2022 / 10:30 a.m.
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Kingston and the Islands Ontario

Liberal

Mark Gerretsen LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons (Senate)

Madam Speaker, it appears that the Conservatives do not even know what we are debating right now, based on the point of order that came earlier. The suggestion was that we were debating Bill C-13. We are not. We are actually debating a motion to time allocate it, because we have to: It is a position that the Conservatives have put us in.

The member for New Westminster—Burnaby actually was spot-on as to why we are in the situation that we are in: Conservatives are just putting up person after person for no reason other than to obstruct this Parliament. We saw that on Monday night, when they put up speaker after speaker on a bill that they supposedly support.

Can the minister please explain to the House how she sees the difficulties coming from the other side?

Bill C-13—Time Allocation MotionOfficial Languages ActGovernment Orders

May 20th, 2022 / 10:30 a.m.
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Liberal

Ginette Petitpas Taylor Liberal Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe, NB

Madam Speaker, if we look at the components of Bill C-32, our action plan and Bill C-13, it is clear that the common thread is the desire to achieve substantive equality. That is why we are going further with our bill. We want to ensure that we make our contribution to achieving substantive equality. It will not happen overnight. We recognize that French is in decline in this country. French is in decline in Canada. That is why we are moving forward with an ambitious bill. We absolutely want to correct this situation.

Bill C-13—Time Allocation MotionOfficial Languages ActGovernment Orders

May 20th, 2022 / 10:25 a.m.
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Liberal

Ginette Petitpas Taylor Liberal Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe, NB

Madam Speaker, I would like to once again thank my colleague who has been working in this field for several decades. I am extremely grateful to him for that and for the work that he does here in Ottawa as the chair of the official languages caucus.

Positive measures are indeed a very important part of Bill C-13. The stakeholders we spoke to really wanted to see improvements in the definition and handling of positive measures compared to former Bill C-32. That is exactly what we did.

We took care to closely examine every word and every comma in our new bill because we want to ensure that it will really help official language minority communities. We want the positive measures to be clearly defined, because they are a very important component.

Bill C-13—Time Allocation MotionOfficial Languages ActGovernment Orders

May 20th, 2022 / 10:25 a.m.
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Sackville—Preston—Chezzetcook Nova Scotia

Liberal

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

Madam Speaker, I thank you for giving me the opportunity to rise today to speak to Bill C-13.

As an Acadian from Nova Scotia who worked on the ground in the field of education for 30 some years, I was able to witness first-hand the challenges we face in advancing French in our official language minority communities.

We have known about these issues for 30 years, and we know that something needs to be done to remedy them. We have taken some action over the past five or 10 years, namely with the Translation Bureau, the court challenges program, services in French and bilingual judges in the Supreme Court of Canada. Those are all very important things.

Positive measures are essential, and the courts are saying that we need to do more in that regard. Does the minister think that Bill C-13 responds to this request from the courts?

Bill C-13—Time Allocation MotionOfficial Languages ActGovernment Orders

May 20th, 2022 / 10:15 a.m.
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Liberal

René Arseneault Liberal Madawaska—Restigouche, NB

Madam Speaker, I am a member of the Standing Committee on Official Languages, along with some of my colleagues currently in the House, whether virtually or in person. I can confirm that this committee has the best team, across party lines, to carry Bill C-13 forward and do exactly what we hope to achieve with it.

I would like to hear more from the minister about what she has heard from stakeholders from coast to coast to coast, wherever they are located in our big, beautiful Canada, about this new version of the legislation.

Bill C-13—Time Allocation MotionOfficial Languages ActGovernment Orders

May 20th, 2022 / 10:15 a.m.
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Conservative

Joël Godin Conservative Portneuf—Jacques-Cartier, QC

Madam Speaker, right now, the House is debating Bill C‑13. We are not debating procedure.

I do not need a lecture from the NDP—

Bill C-13—Time Allocation MotionOfficial Languages ActGovernment Orders

May 20th, 2022 / 10:15 a.m.
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Bloc

Maxime Blanchette-Joncas Bloc Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques, QC

Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague for her speech.

I would like to ask the minister a question. The government says it recognizes the decline of French in Canada and Quebec, especially in Montreal. However, this bill would give people in Quebec the choice to speak English or French. Quebec is the only place where the official language is French, yet the government wants to give people the choice to speak English.

I would like my colleague to explain how we are supposed to protect French when Bill C‑13 gives federally regulated companies the choice to speak English or French.

Bill C-13—Time Allocation MotionOfficial Languages ActGovernment Orders

May 20th, 2022 / 10:10 a.m.
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Liberal

Ginette Petitpas Taylor Liberal Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe, NB

Madam Speaker, let us get one thing straight right off the bat. This is day four of debate on Bill C‑13. There have been 63 speeches in the House about this bill: 19 by the Conservative Party, 18 by the Liberal Party, 13 by the NDP and 12 by the Bloc Québécois.

Let us not forget that, even though a big part of the work is done in the House, a lot is done in committee as well. Committee work is very important. I also know that my hon. colleague is a member of the committee, which does great work, often working very closely with all the parties. That does not mean we always agree, but some great work gets done.

At this point, we are very eager for the parliamentary committee to get going on this so the bill can then come back to the House.

Bill C-13—Time Allocation MotionOfficial Languages ActGovernment Orders

May 20th, 2022 / 10:05 a.m.
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Liberal

Ginette Petitpas Taylor Liberal Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe, NB

Madam Speaker, just the opposite is true.

Our government is firmly committed to protecting and promoting French across the country, including in Quebec. We recognize that there has been a decline in the use of French across the country, including in Quebec. That is why we are moving forward with this new version of our bill.

The former Bill C-32 was introduced last June. Since being appointed Minister of Official Languages, I have had the good fortune and privilege of meeting many of the people who have been working on this file for years. Based on the information we have received, we can say that they are very happy with the new version of the bill, which they think has more teeth.

That is why we really want to ensure that parliamentarians can continue the debate at the Standing Committee on Official Languages and move Bill C-13 forward.

I would remind the House that following the committee study, the bill will come back to the House before going to the Senate. I look forward to ensuring that this great bill receives royal assent as soon as possible.