The QCGN's objectives in this discussion are not only to offer suggestions on how to make the act work more efficiently and effectively but to seize this opportunity to strengthen the language rights of Canadians. As I said in my opening statement, we firmly believe that Canada's English and French linguistic minority communities are in this together, and in that spirit we outline the following three goals:
With regard to part V, on language of work, this section of the act starts out well:
English and French are the languages of work in all federal institutions, and officers and employees of all federal institutions have the right to use either official language.
but it then goes on to severely limit these rights, based on geography. Technology has made geography, in terms of work, largely obsolete. Moreover, locating national institutional headquarters outside of the national capital region often results in the absurd situation of imposing on offices obligations for bilingual services to the public, due to the nature of their service, without the workers in those offices having the right to work in their official language.
In terms of employee relations, every federal civil servant must have the right to use the official language of his or her choice, and the right to learn his or her second language.
Part III of the act already provides a number of obligations for federal courts and tribunals regarding the administration of justice. These obligations should remain, and should be enhanced in an important way. Judges of the Supreme Court should be able to understand the official languages chosen by the parties, without the assistance of an interpreter.
Further, the act should create a federal obligation under part VII to encourage and assist provincial governments to ensure that access to the entire justice system is available in both official languages. A bilingual judge is of little use if the clerk cannot work in the minority language, and other court functions are not available.
Parts IV, V and VI of the act should be applicable to all federally regulated private enterprises. The only private businesses in Quebec that are not subject to the Charte de la langue française are federally regulated businesses and undertakings such as chartered banks, telecommunications companies and transportation companies.
Proposals to extend the application of the the Charte de la langue française to these entities would not only be constitutionally incoherent but would have the effect of territorializing constitutional language rights, which would pose an unacceptable threat to French and English linguistic minority communities across the country.
Extending the Official Languages Act, on the other hand, to federally regulated businesses and undertakings would not only fix a mischief in the law that exists in Quebec, it would ensure that these businesses experience the economic benefits of working in Canada's two languages across the country, and create language rights under the act for thousands of workers within federally regulated businesses across the country.
It would also provide a right to work and a right to service in the minority language from federally regulated businesses in every province. Therefore, it would be a win for both French and English minorities, and for the French and English majority populations across the country.
Thank you very much, and we look forward to your questions.