It was a pleasure for me to be here this morning to hear Michel Doucet's testimony. We are both members of Statistics Canada's advisory committee on language statistics, which met yesterday.
When considering the modernization of the act, our thinking was guided by the following principles, which must be woven into the fabric of new legislation.
First is the equality of status of English and French. There can be no separate status; nor can the law be written to differentiate approaches to either language. Flexibility to meet the unique needs of individual official language minority communities and achieve substantive equality can be achieved through effective consultation.
Second, a new act should provide for robust, mandatory and properly resourced consultation at all levels, including a formal mechanism for consultation at the national level. This is a major concern of English-speaking Quebec, which is not equipped to equally participate in national-level official languages discussions; nor is its presence adequately felt or seen here despite the size of our community.
Specific recommendations are contained in our written brief. I will, however, highlight the following.
Parts IV, V, VI and VII of the act are intimately connected yet implemented separately without coherent accountability. How can an institution fulfill its part IV obligations if it does not employ sufficient numbers of minority-language Canadians or allow federal civil servants the right to learn and work in their minority language? How are the official language minority's institutions and organizations visible to federal institutions, which are committed to taking positive measures to enhance vitality, if they exclude minority-language Canadians from their regional workforces? A siloed approach to implementing parts IV through VII of the act does not work.
We also draw the committee's attention to the chronic underemployment of English-speaking Canadians in the federal civil service in Quebec outside of the national capital region. From this perspective, several federal institutions are not meeting their obligations under this section of the act, which is vague and lacks regulation to make it enforceable.
Clarity and accountability must be brought to part VII of the act, and the Minister of Official Languages must by provided the authority to implement its commitments. We also insist on strict transparency provisions on federal investments made under part VII from all recipients, including provincial and territorial governments. Clear definitions of “positive measures”, “enhancing the vitality of”, and “supporting the development of” official language minority communities must be included. Responsibility without authority, like “in consultation with”, must be expunged.
We also call for a more focused role for the Commissioner of Official Languages, and the establishment of an administrative tribunal with the power to sanction transgressions of the act.