An Act respecting the French language


Claude DeBellefeuille  Bloc

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


Defeated, as of Sept. 28, 2022

Subscribe to a feed (what's a feed?) of speeches and votes in the House related to Bill C-238.


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

This enactment amends the Canada Labour Code , the Official Languages Act and the Canada Business Corporations Act to ensure that these Acts are consistent with the Charter of the French Language in Quebec.
It also amends the Citizenship Act to require that permanent residents who ordinarily reside in Quebec must have an adequate knowledge of French in order to obtain citizenship.


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


Sept. 28, 2022 Failed 2nd reading of Bill C-238, An Act respecting the French language

An Act respecting the French languagePrivate Members' Business

September 28th, 2022 / 4:20 p.m.
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The Speaker Liberal Anthony Rota

The House will now proceed to the taking of the deferred recorded division on the motion at second reading stage of Bill C-238 under Private Members' Business.

The question is on the motion.

The House resumed from September 26 consideration of the motion that Bill C-238, An Act respecting the French language, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

An Act respecting the French languagePrivate Members' Business

September 26th, 2022 / 11:55 a.m.
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Claude DeBellefeuille Bloc Salaberry—Suroît, QC

Madam Speaker, as you probably know, the International Day of Older Persons is coming up soon. I would like to take advantage of the debate on my bill to draw everyone's attention to this important day, because the generation before mine did so much for the French language. As a society, it waged major battles. Its story is the story of a nation that owns its uniqueness. It is therefore fitting, on the eve of the International Day of Older Persons, to thank those who have done so much for our national language and who, quite frankly, are just as concerned about the decline of French as we are.

For some, conversations about the decline of French elicit a shrug of the shoulders. Members of Parliament say we are getting too worked up about it. They say we are misinterpreting the statistics, that the indicators do not accurately reflect new linguistic dynamics. It is a tempest in a teapot, they say. That was the message during the first hour of debate on Bill C‑238. However, Statistics Canada shed new light this summer on what is happening with French across Canada and in Quebec.

We knew it, but now it is clear. My colleague, the member for La Pointe-de-l'Île, predicted it. No matter what measure we use, we see a decline in French. In Quebec, there are fewer people whose mother tongue is French. The same goes for the primary language spoken at home and the language spoken in public, and that is key. It is a serious slide, to the benefit of English. What will my bill, which I have the honour of introducing on behalf of the Bloc Québécois, do to stop this decline?

It addresses two things: language of work and the language of newcomers. For language of work, Bill C‑238 incorporates the National Assembly's unanimous request to apply Bill 101 to federally regulated businesses. Again, this was a unanimous request. Every Quebec member thought about the issue and came to the same conclusion. I hope that the House will be able to show a bit of consideration for democracy in Quebec.

During the first hour of debate, I heard someone say that Bill C‑13 would be better at protecting French at federally regulated businesses in Quebec. To say that is to flat out say no to the National Assembly. That is serious.

I have to say what I think. I do not trust the federal government to truly fight for the French language. It is the federal government that is responsible for the fact that, as we speak, a francophone veteran has to wait an average of 45 weeks for a decision on their file. An anglophone waits only 24 weeks. In Canada, discrimination based on language is tolerated. It is the federal government that is responsible for the fact that, in the House, ministers hold important briefings on their bills with no consideration for French. It is the federal government that tolerates the fact that it is very difficult for francophones to get top jobs in the government even though many francophones work in the public service. Despite efforts made in recent decades to protect French in Canada, everything is done in English.

I therefore place my trust in the Quebec government to ensure respect for Quebeckers' language rights, which is why Bill 101 must be applied to federally regulated businesses. Bill C‑238 has a second element, namely knowledge of French as a requirement for Quebec citizenship. To be clear, knowledge of French would be a requirement to obtain citizenship for people residing in Quebec. This would change nothing for people claiming refugee status or permanent residency. I think that this is a very reasonable provision.

There are all kinds of ways for people to step up and help stop the decline of the French language. I know that my bill is just one among many others. If I have not been convincing, I ask members to send Bill C‑238 to committee so that experts can come explain why it is so important. That is what Wednesday's vote will be about. My bill represents the first opportunity for all members of Parliament to show that they are concerned about the decline of French. My bill would give Quebec two new tools to help it wage this crucial, magnificent battle for the French language, for its words, its accents and its future. I urge members not to undermine the efforts of such a resilient nation. Let us pass Bill C‑238.

An Act respecting the French languagePrivate Members' Business

September 26th, 2022 / 11:45 a.m.
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Jean-Denis Garon Bloc Mirabel, QC

Madam Speaker, I have been following this morning's debate and, in my view, there seems to be a bit of a cat fight in the House between Bill C-238, which seeks to comply with the will of the Quebec National Assembly on matters relating to Quebec's only official language, and Bill C-13.

I was surprised to hear the parliamentary secretary say earlier that Bill C-238 takes a Quebec-centric approach and fails to respect the rights of francophones outside Quebec, let alone even acknowledge the reality of francophones outside Quebec.

Unlike Bill C-238, what the government is offering us in Bill C-13 is essentially English in Montreal and English in Quebec. It is really important to compare and contrast these two bills. Unlike Bill C-238, Bill C-13 gives federally regulated businesses in Quebec the pretense of choice. It is merely a pretense of choice, giving them the option to operate in one official language or the other. Government members, some of whom have actually stood here in the House and publicly denied that French is in decline, seem to magically believe that a bank headquartered in Toronto, with the majority of its staff in Toronto and 80% of its market in English-speaking Canada, will be naturally inclined to offer services of equal quality in both English and French. Saying something like that is akin to leaving the future of our language in the hands of Michael Rousseau of Air Canada or in the hands of the Royal Bank of Canada, which once was “La Banque royale du Canada”.

The fact is, when these companies located in Quebec are given some semblance of a choice, they choose English. They choose English because it is easier, cheaper and more efficient for their accounting departments. Quebeckers are the ones who end up paying the price. This is happening despite the fact that French as a language of work works. It works for big corporations and multinationals, and for the flagship companies we are so proud of. That same model should apply to our federally governed enterprises.

Can anyone explain to me why the Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec, one of the largest pension funds in the world, which is governed by Quebec law, is able to operate in French and abide by the Charter of the French Language while making investments around the world? I would like someone to explain to me why the Caisse is able to do that.

Can anyone explain to me why Couche-Tard, headquartered in Laval, Quebec, can operate entirely in French at its headquarters while doing business internationally in pretty much every language of every country in which it does business? Couche-Tard can do that because the right signal and the right message have been sent. Do not try to tell me that an anglophone who goes to a Couche-Tard cannot buy a bag of chips in English.

The model that is working in Quebec should be replicated in businesses under federal jurisdiction. That is hardly small potatoes. We are talking about a major group of businesses with a large number of employees located for the most part in downtown Montreal, working mainly in English in some cases, which contributes to the anglicization of Montreal, its downtown and its cultural life.

Take telecommunications, for example. BCE has more than 14,000 employees, Rogers has 3,000 and Cogeco has 1,700. That means Quebec's telecommunications sector alone employs about 18,000 people. That is equivalent to the population of Sainte‑Anne‑des‑Plaines, a town in my riding. That is a lot of people.

Then there are the banks. National Bank has 10,200 employees. I am not saying that they all necessarily speak English at work. What I am saying is that these thousands of workers have the right to work in French. They should not fall under a legislative regime where if just one person comes from Toronto or if just one person speaks English, everyone switches to English. We know what happens when there are 10 francophones and one anglophone at the table: They speak English over lunch. That is exactly what happens.

Quebeckers must be guaranteed the right to speak French at work. French is the only official and national language of Quebec. It is an inclusive language because it is our common language. The French language allows us to understand one another, integrate and grow together.

Quebec's banking sector alone employs 23,000 people. The aviation and rail transportation sectors would add another 9,000 or 10,000 people. The Liberals' bilingualism model is to linguistic policy what tax evasion is to taxation. It allows these businesses to be different from others. It gives these businesses a free pass and lets them break the rules. Francophones who want to work in telecommunications or in the rail transportation sector are subject to a regime that prevents them from working in Quebec's historical, national language.

The purpose of Bill C‑238 is to implement legislation that acknowledges the reality, the facts, the history and, most importantly, the unanimous will of the Quebec National Assembly. This is a bill that reflects the realities of Quebeckers and addresses the current confusion, which leaves Quebeckers under the impression that they are free to work in French in all federally regulated businesses. One does not need to have visited these businesses to understand that this is not the case.

There is another positive aspect to Bill C-238, specifically asymmetry. It is something that Canadian federalism has rejected all too often. In many provinces, such as Quebec, people's preferences and expectations, history, culture, the working world, practices and legislative agendas are not the same. Language in the workplace must also be dealt with a bit differently.

The principle of asymmetry is accepted in numerous areas, for example, in health care. The very fact that we are a federation implies that different provinces with different needs should work differently. There is also a certain asymmetry in the immigration system. Quebec has a certain number of targets in a certain number of programs, but not in all of them. For some time now, job training has been delegated to the Quebec government through special agreements. Why? Because Quebec has its own business ecosystem, its own community sector, its own institutions, and its own expectations. Bill C-238 does exactly the same thing.

What worries me about some of the speeches I have heard today, including the one from the member for Louis-Saint-Laurent, a colleague I hold in high regard, is the fact that we are still having debates about whether francophones are or are not disappearing, whether French is or is not declining, and so on. Some Conservatives in the House, including the member for Louis-Saint-Laurent, claim to be experts in mathematics. They look at three or four data points, see that such-and-such a statistic shows that there are three or four more francophones in such-and-such a place, and then some claim that there is no loss of francophones and no need to protect French. Just the fact that we are talking about it, that it is being brought up again, and that it is on the agenda demonstrates that there is a problem in Quebec. Can anyone tell me where in Canada there are debates about the disappearance of English? Nowhere. That is because it is obvious that English is not disappearing. French needs to be protected.

Bill C-238 is balanced, respectful, asymmetrical and well-thought-out. It will ensure that the real language of work in Quebec is French. Large companies will still be able to do business in English because that is the language everyone naturally gravitates to in North America. If we do not pass Bill C-238 but do pass Bill C-13, that force of gravity will simply lead us to unilingualism, eventually.

It is important to note, and I appreciated the speech by my colleague from the NDP, that the law applies only to Canadian citizens. Refugees and new immigrants under the family reunification program are exempt. This is an inclusive bill. I congratulate my colleague from Salaberry—Suroît for introducing this bill. Of course, I am looking forward to voting for it.

An Act respecting the French languagePrivate Members' Business

September 26th, 2022 / 11:35 a.m.
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Peter Julian NDP New Westminster—Burnaby, BC

Madam Speaker, I rise in the House today to express the NDP's support for Bill C‑238 at second reading.

Later in my speech I will talk about our concerns with some aspects of the bill, in particular regarding citizenship granted to immigrants who come through the family reunification stream and to refugees. I will get back to this, but this is a significant concern that has been debated at length in parliamentary committee.

There is no problem with the first part of the bill, which deals with federally regulated businesses, and that is why we will support sending Bill C‑238 to committee. That said, as members know, the NDP has always been the only party in the House to champion and advocate for the rights of linguistic minorities and the French language, not just in Quebec, but all across the country.

To illustrate, I can point to British Columbia, where a provincial NDP government created the existing French-language school board network and umbrella programs in francophone schools across the province. This was a unique, important initiative from the NDP.

I could also give the example of the New Democrat government in Saskatchewan. It did the same thing: It opened French-language schools throughout the province. The New Democrat government in Manitoba established a network of French-language schools and school boards across the province.

We also mentioned New Democrat member Léo Piquette, a Franco-Albertan and the strongest advocate for French-language rights in Alberta. New Democrat governments in Ontario and the Atlantic provinces expanded the network of French-language colleges.

I could give numerous examples of New Democrat governments and members that have always pushed to advance the rights of francophone minority-language communities and, of course, to defend the French language.

These are undeniable facts no one can challenge. It may be easy to speak before the House, but it is more difficult to talk to people across the country, as we did. We are also proud of our past record in this respect, and our efforts continue into the present. New Democrat members always advocate for the French language and linguistic minorities, which, of course, include francophone linguistic minorities.

Since adopting the Sherbrooke Declaration, the New Democrats have been pushing for legislation concerning federally regulated businesses. As our members know, it has been years. Obviously, I am referring to the party under Jack Layton, Thomas Mulcair, Nycole Turmel and, of course, our current leader, the hon. member for Burnaby South.

At every opportunity, the NDP has taken a stand and tabled bills on the subject. We have fought for this in the House. It only makes sense that workers in Quebec have the right to work in French. This is not currently the case, since federally regulated businesses are exempt from the obligation to provide a workplace in which people can communicate in French.

It also makes sense that workers in caisses populaires be able to speak, communicate and work in French. When it comes to the major Canadian banks, workers no longer have these rights. That is why the NDP has been demanding for years that federally regulated businesses be subject to the same obligation to create a work environment where employers and workers have the right to express themselves, communicate and work in French.

It only makes sense. It is like what I said earlier. We have always advocated for the right of francophones to have access to services. It is a basic right to be able to work in French, whether one is in Montreal or Quebec City. If someone works in a federally regulated business, it is only logical that they have the right to work in French.

It is precisely this first part of the bill that we fully support. For years now, our party has been saying that workers in businesses under federal jurisdiction should be granted this basic right. It only makes sense.

As I mentioned earlier, I have a big problem with the second part of the bill. When it comes to economic immigration, Quebec already has tools to choose the immigrants it receives and to make sure they are able to express themselves in French. Of that there is no doubt. Now, extending this requirement to immigrants received under family reunification and to refugees, and making them wait for their full rights as Canadian citizens, that, we find very worrying. As the hon. member for Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie so eloquently said a few weeks ago, applying this requirement to refugees is abusive.

We know full well that immigrants to Quebec want to learn French. Clearly, there was not enough money to ensure that they were given the opportunity to learn French. As members know, I spent many years in Quebec, first in Saguenay—Lac-Saint-Jean, then in the Eastern Townships. These are very beautiful regions in Quebec. I find them magnificent. Then I went to Montreal and the Outaouais. During all my years in Quebec, I saw that immigrants were interested in learning French.

Often, there were not enough resources or programs to enable them to learn French. We should focus on having the resources for these people who bring their skills and interests to Quebec and Canada. Refugees are often fleeing horrible situations, human rights violations and war. When they come to Quebec and Canada, they want to contribute. We need to have the resources to enable them to learn French. It is crucial. Saying that if they do not learn French well enough they will be refused Canadian citizenship, the right to vote and any other rights dependent on Canadian citizenship is definitely not the right thing to do. As a progressive party, we believe we need to have the necessary resources to enable them to learn French.

People I have met throughout Quebec want to learn French. There are not enough programs. Let us then implement programs to make it possible for them to learn French.

We support sending the bill back to committee specifically to fix these flaws.

An Act respecting the French languagePrivate Members' Business

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

An Act respecting the French languagePrivate Members' Business

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The House resumed from May 9 consideration of the motion that Bill C‑238, An Act respecting the French language, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

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

May 20th, 2022 / 1:15 p.m.
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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 10th, 2022 / 2:40 p.m.
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Claude DeBellefeuille Bloc Salaberry—Suroît, QC

Mr. Speaker, Quebeckers want French to be mandatory in workplaces.

Workers can, of course, be bilingual or even trilingual, but French should be the language of work in our businesses. There is a solution, which can be found in Bill C‑238, which I introduced. This bill would make federally regulated businesses subject to the Charter of the French Language. It is as simple as that.

Does the minister realize that by refusing such a simple solution she is encouraging businesses to avoid using French?

An Act respecting the French languagePrivate Members' Business

May 9th, 2022 / 11:50 a.m.
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Mario Beaulieu Bloc La Pointe-de-l'Île, QC

Madam Speaker, Bill C-238, which was introduced by a member of the Bloc Québécois, includes two proposals on which there is broad consensus in Quebec.

The first part of the bill seeks to amend the Citizenship Act to ensure that permanent residents who reside in Quebec have an adequate knowledge of French in order to obtain citizenship. Under the current legislation, Canada requires knowledge of English or French. Accordingly, a person can get their citizenship and settle in Quebec without knowing how to speak French. Quebec thinks it is only reasonable for people to have a knowledge of its only official language before being granted citizenship.

What my colleague fails to grasp is that people who arrive under the family reunification program will be here for several years before they apply for citizenship. I therefore do not see why we would not encourage them to learn French. That is what the current Quebec government wanted to do in another way by requiring people to pass a French test in order obtain permanent resident status.

A survey showed that three-quarters of Quebeckers believe that the francization of immigrants is vital to the future of Quebec and that a basic knowledge of French should be mandatory in order to live in Quebec.

The first time the Bloc introduced a bill to this effect, it was simply rejected. It was deemed unconstitutional and therefore non-votable, even though the parliamentary law clerks disagreed. We were more or less told that taking measures to integrate immigrants into francophone Quebec was unconstitutional.

We introduced the bill a second time in 2021. This time, it was not declared unconstitutional, but it was defeated because it did not receive the support of the Liberals or the NDP. The only NDP member from Quebec told us that it was a divisive measure that excluded new immigrants. The odd thing is that no one ever says that requiring English is a divisive measure that excludes new immigrants. Our measure is actually the opposite of divisive. The best way to include new immigrants and form a cohesive society is to make sure that they know Quebec's official and common language.

The second part of our bill seeks to apply the Charter of the French Language to federally regulated businesses. This measure has widespread support in Quebec, having been endorsed by all the former premiers, the big city mayors and the major unions. It was the subject of a unanimous motion in Quebec's National Assembly.

The Bloc Québécois has introduced multiple bills to this effect since 2009. The most recent attempt was my colleague from Beauport—Limoilou's bill during the last Parliament. That is the time we came closest to success. The bill passed second reading after receiving the support of all parties except the Liberals. It then died on the Order Paper, because the Liberal Prime Minister called an election. There is still a legal vacuum, meaning federally regulated private businesses are not subject to any regulations.

Through its reform of Bill 101, the Quebec government intends to apply the Charter of the French Language to all companies in Quebec, including federally regulated businesses. However, the Liberal government wants to stop it by making Bill 101 optional, so that companies get to choose between Bill 101 and the federal Official Languages Act.

The Quebec minister responsible for Canadian relations and the Canadian francophonie, who is usually very discreet, even told the federal government to keep its hands off when it comes to Quebec.

When Air Canada representatives appeared before the Standing Committee on Official Languages, they were asked this question and were quick to say that they prefer to be subject to the Official Languages Act.

The Liberals tell us that their new bill modernizing the federal law uses Bill 101 as a model for the Official Languages Act in terms of federally regulated businesses. This is not true. Canada's language law and Bill 101 are based on very different and contrary approaches. Canada's language law, the Official Languages Act, is based on an approach that does not aim to strengthen French in Quebec, but rather to strengthen English-language services and the anglophone community in Quebec.

It is based on what language planning experts around the world call the personality principle, that is, a policy of institutional bilingualism based on individual rights, on the right to choose one official language or the other, that is, English in Quebec.

Throughout the world, it has been noted that this model of language policy allows the stronger language to develop to the detriment of the more vulnerable one. This can be seen in the assimilation rates of francophones outside Quebec, which increase with each census.

The other major approach to language planning is based on collective and territorial rights. It aims to establish an official and common language in a given territory. This is the approach of territorial bilingualism or multilingualism used in Belgium or Switzerland, for example. These are the models that André Laurendeau, who first suggested the Laurendeau-Dunton commission, referred to. Guillaume Rousseau, a lawyer from Quebec who specializes in language law, said that “virtually all language policy experts around the world believe that only a territoriality-based approach can guarantee the survival and development of a minority language”.

The Charter of the French Language is based mainly on this approach, although it has been considerably weakened by legal challenges funded by the federal government and decisions handed down by the federal courts under the Constitution Act, 1982, which imposed the principles of the federal law despite the fact that no Quebec government has ever ratified them.

Bill 101 sought to make French the common language in the workplace, whereas the Official Languages Act gives people the right to work in French or in English. It strengthens bilingualism rather than the French language. For example, Bill 101 protects Quebec workers from reprisals or sanctions if they speak only French. The new federal law includes similar measures with fewer remedies and less effectiveness, but it also protects anglophones who wish to continue working in English in Quebec at federally regulated businesses.

Bill 101 imposes the predominance of French in signage. It seeks to generalize the use of French at every level of the business. There is nothing of the sort in the new Official Languages Act proposed by the Liberals. Their bill does not give French predominance as the language of work, the language of communication with consumers, or the language of signage.

The decline of French in Canada and Quebec is increasingly worrisome. For example, language transfers for allophones are typically toward English. For years, my NDP colleague has been advancing the wrong-headed argument that indicators such as mother tongue and language used at home are unimportant, when every demographer agrees that they are in fact extremely important. They do not exclude anyone; they are linguistic indicators. When used properly, the linguistic indicators, even those relating to language of work and the common language, all point in the same direction. It is a false argument.

As I said, the decline of French in Canada and Quebec is increasingly worrisome. According to Statistics Canada, by 2036, the relative weight of Quebec's French-mother-tongue population could have dropped to 69%, and the weight of Quebeckers who speak French most often at home could have dropped to 73.6%. This means that there will also be a decline in French as the language of work. Quebec has its back to the wall. We cannot go back any farther. What happens to our bill will say a lot about the future of French in Quebec and Canada.

For 52 years, or since always, actually, the biggest adversary of French as the common and official language of Quebec has been the Canadian government. For the first time, the federal government has admitted the obvious: that French is in decline and that the government has a responsibility to promote French across Canada, including in Quebec. Is this just more smoke and mirrors from the Liberals to try to win a few more francophone votes in Quebec?

That seems to be the explanation, because, as we saw, they are not changing their position. They are still against applying Bill 101 to federally regulated businesses. The two measures in our bill will certainly not solve everything, but they will respond to what Quebec is looking for.

In conclusion, if no changes are made to the Official Languages Act, Quebeckers will have to once again ask themselves a critical question that is becoming more and more real: Is the choice between assimilation and an independent Quebec?

An Act respecting the French languagePrivate Members' Business

May 9th, 2022 / 11:40 a.m.
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Alexandre Boulerice NDP Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie, QC

Madam Speaker, I am very pleased to rise today in the House to talk about something that is so important for Quebeckers, as well as for all francophones in Canada and North America.

I would like to thank my colleague from Salaberry—Suroît for introducing Bill C-238 and giving us the opportunity to have this vital discussion in the House of Commons.

From what I hear from my colleagues, I think that we are all concerned about the status of French, its place in Canada, the respect it receives, and making sure it is defended and promoted in Quebec and in the rest of Canada.

It is in this context that, during the last Parliament, the House unanimously adopted a motion recognizing the decline of French in Canada and Quebec. I remember it well, because I am the one who tabled the motion. I am very pleased to have personally contributed to this discussion so that, together, we can make an effort to ensure that French remains the common language in Quebec and that francophone minority communities are better protected and have access to cultural activities and the right to work in French.

The first part of Bill C‑238, which we are debating today, is extremely important. The NDP has agreed with this principle for years. Ever since the Sherbrooke declaration, we have wanted the principles enshrined in the Charter of the French Language to apply to federally regulated companies. It is a matter of equal rights for workers. It is also a matter of defending the French language. The right of these employees to work and communicate in French within their company is fundamental. That is why, for years now, under the leadership of Jack Layton, then Thomas Mulcair and now the hon. member for Burnaby South, the NDP has been advocating for employees working in federally regulated companies in Quebec, whether it be in air transportation, marine shipping or telecommunications, to have the same rights as other workers.

The current situation is completely absurd. If someone works for a credit union, they have the right to demand that their employment contract and communications with their employer be in French. That has always been the case, and there has never been a problem. However, someone who works for Royal Bank or the Bank of Montreal does not have the same right. This is a double standard, since all of these institutions are banks. The employees do not have the same rights or recourse, so we really need to find a solution.

That is why, for years now, the NDP has wholeheartedly agreed with the proposal set out in the first part of the member for Salaberry—Suroît's Bill C‑238. In our opinion, it is very important. We support this goal and we want to see it achieved. We must avoid the fiascoes we saw with Air Canada and Canadian National, as well as the attacks on French-language universities like Campus Saint-Jean in Alberta and Laurentian University in Ontario.

Whether through laws enacted by Quebec’s National Assembly such as Bill 96, which our Conservative colleague mentioned earlier, a bill like the one presented in the House, or the proposal to modernize the Official Languages Act, we need to work together to fight the decline of the French language and ensure French is promoted and remains strong in Quebec and across the country.

Since we are talking about the situation of the French language, I will take this opportunity to express my concern about the use of certain indicators and send a message to my colleague, the hon. member for La Pointe-de-l’Île. I cannot raise this issue in the Standing Committee on Official Languages because we do not have enough time. I will therefore take the time now to say that I am very concerned about what I see as the abusive use of criteria and indicators of the first language and main language used at home. I do not find these indicators and criteria particularly revealing or even appropriate to describe the situation of the French language. Let me explain.

I find that the whole idea of Bill 96 is precisely to reduce the importance of the first-language indicator. Since we want children of immigrants to go to French school, their first language should not count and will count less and less. The more immigrants we host who are not francophone, the less valid this indicator is, since they must learn French in school and will then become francophone.

With respect to the language used at home, in the Quebec nation, which is a nation of immigrants, children may continue to speak their parents’ first language at home. That is okay, and it is normal. What is important is that French be the language used in the public arena and at work. That is my opinion and we can debate it, but I think that these criteria are much more important in a modern Quebec and an immigrant society.

I will give an example that my spouse will not like. My spouse is anglophone. Her second language is Armenian. Her third language is French. She works in French. She prepares communications. She writes in French. Therefore, based on the first-language criterion, she is not francophone, even if she works in French 99% of the time and interacts in the community with neighbours and in stores in French. If we look at the primary language used at home, when I am not at home, she speaks with the children in English so that they can learn English. Therefore, when I am not at home, she is not francophone, either. On the other hand, when I am at home, she is francophone because we speak French.

Is this an exceptional case? No. I have four employees, two of whom are in exactly the same situation. One is Colombian, and the other Italian. Their first language is not French, the primary language they use at home is not French, but they work and function in Quebec society in French. We need to be careful with these indicators. I think that we should choose them carefully to get an accurate picture.

The problem with the bill before us today is in the second part, which states that all immigrants must take a French test to obtain citizenship. It is important to note that Quebec already controls economic immigration and that the number of points granted for knowledge of French significantly favours francophones. That is great for people who want to come work and settle in Quebec and build Quebec society with the rest of us. For economic immigration, we essentially have all the tools we need. The National Assembly and successive Quebec governments have found ways to prioritize francophones who already speak French.

Where federal jurisdiction over immigration comes into play is with family reunification and refugees. As a progressive party, the NDP considers the French test requirement for people arriving here under family reunification and refugee provisions to be unreasonable. Their personal situations are so different that their access to citizenship should not be delayed just because they do not speak French. Delaying access to citizenship also means delaying access to voting rights and participation in our society's democratic life. That worries me, and I do not think this is the best available tool. There are many other things that could be done rather than imposing this on refugees who come here because they are fleeing war and trying to save their lives.

The second problem with requiring knowledge of French for citizenship is that this bill does not take interprovincial migration into account. Someone who does not speak French and does not want to do the French test in Quebec to obtain citizenship can just go to New Brunswick or Ontario, do their test there, get their citizenship and then move to Quebec, so this idea will not really work. I think the idea is fine, but not very practical.

An Act respecting the French languagePrivate Members' Business

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

An Act respecting the French languagePrivate Members' Business

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

An Act respecting the French languagePrivate Members' Business

May 9th, 2022 / 11:20 a.m.
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Richard Cannings NDP South Okanagan—West Kootenay, BC

Madam Speaker, I would like to thank the hon. member for Salaberry—Suroît for her speech, and for having introduced Bill C-238.

Does she have any suggestions about how to improve access to French courses for new Quebeckers who would like to learn or improve their French?