Mr. Chair, distinguished members of the Standing Commons Committee on Official Languages, thank you for giving me this opportunity to meet with you and to introduce myself.
I first want to express how appreciative I am for being selected as a candidate for the position of Commissioner of Official Languages of Canada. It is a sign of confidence that touches me greatly, because, throughout my public life, the country's linguistic duality has been a source of inspiration and commitment for me.
I applied for the position of Commissioner of Official Languages of Canada with a great deal of interest and enthusiasm. I believe I have the recognized relevant knowledge, professional qualifications and personal skills to fulfil this role competently and effectively.
My professional career has enabled me to evolve and succeed in three different fields of competency: first as a nurse, then as a lawyer, and more recently as a provincial member of Parliament and minister. At the beginning of my career, I worked as a nurse in a hospital environment, in various specialized services, and I performed clinical teaching duties. After going back to school, I practised as a lawyer specializing in labour and employment law. I worked with both the union and employer communities, thus acquiring experience in mediation and conciliation. During my legal career, I also served as a municipal councillor for the City of Ottawa.
I served as a provincial member of Parliament and Ontario government minister for a period of 12 years. Throughout that period, I served as the minister responsible for francophone affairs. In that capacity I spearheaded important initiatives to ensure the development of the Franco-Ontarian community. Those initiatives included the establishment of the Office of the French Language Services Commissioner, the adoption of a more inclusive definition of francophones, the adoption of regulations on the delivery of French-language services by third parties on behalf of governmental organizations, the autonomy of the TFO television channel, and more recently, the setting of a 5% target for francophone immigration.
I can assure you that all the work I carried out in that capacity went beyond party politics and was always dedicated to the needs and interests of Ontario's francophone community.
During this time period, I also held a variety of other ministerial mandates. I served successively as the Minister of Culture, Minister of Community and Social Services, Minister of Safety and Correctional Services, and finally as Attorney General of Ontario. I served on the Treasury Board and the management board of the Government of Ontario for a number of years. I promoted a rigorous approach to fiscal control. Coming from a small business family, I treated public expenditure files with the same sense of prudence and foresight that I learned from my parents, recognizing first and foremost that these were financial resources entrusted to us by all Ontarians.
I also fulfilled ministerial duties that required a high degree of professional responsibility and public accountability. At the ministries of Public Safety and Correctional Services, Community and Social Services, and the Attorney General, I dealt with highly confidential and sensitive complex files.
As the Attorney General of Ontario, it was my responsibility to ensure that all bills and all legal decisions by the government complied with the letter and spirit of the Canadian Constitution. In that capacity, I also ensured that the rule of law was upheld in the exercise of authority. In my role as the legal advisor to cabinet, I always had to act in an objective and non-partisan manner.
In terms of official languages in Canada, I believe I offer unique expertise. Over my 12 years as Ontario's Minister Responsible for Francophone Affairs, I created and maintained collaborative relationships throughout Canada's francophone community, and I developed close relations with my colleagues from other provinces. Nationally, from 2003 to 2015, I participated in every single federal, provincial, and territorial Francophonie conference. Internationally, I attended three Francophonie summits. As part of the Canadian delegation, I contributed to the discussions and to the consensus that was reached by bringing to the table the unique and positive experience of Ontario, which is home to more than 600,000 francophones, an official language minority community that is increasingly diverse and dynamic. I am originally from Quebec, so I am also familiar with Quebec's English-speaking community, its challenges, and its aspirations.
Throughout my career I have made integrity and transparency the core values of my commitment to public life. My actions and decisions have been analyzed and scrutinized by the media, the public, and various political stakeholders. At all times, I have been able to publicly demonstrate my integrity. In my 25 years of public life, I have always adhered to the strictest rules of ethics and accountability associated with the positions I have held.
In closing, if I have the privilege of holding the position of Commissioner of Official Languages, my priorities will include: making Canadians aware of the Commissioner's role, their rights and privileges under the Official Languages Act and of the remedies available them to them to ensure their rights are respected; promoting and protecting the objective nature of the Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages; and promoting the active offer of services to Canadians in both languages.
Official languages minority communities grow through immigration. The federal government has set some goals related to the recruitment of French-speaking immigrants in provinces and territories other than Quebec, including their reception, their integration, their training, and their retention. The Office of the Commissioner will monitor how this file evolves to ensure that the department meets the objectives that it has set for itself.
This year, Canada is celebrating the 150th anniversary of Confederation. While the celebrations are expected to reflect both official languages and the history of our country's two founding peoples, the Office of the Commissioner must ensure that departments and agencies take their language obligations fully into account in the activities and services they offer to the public.
The Official Languages Act will turn 50 soon, in 2019. It will be very important for the office of the commissioner to collaborate fully with the President of the Treasury Board and with the Minister of Canadian Heritage to modernize the act and use new technologies to extend government services to a broader public in both official languages.
Access to justice in both official languages, early childhood development, and bilingualism in the public service will be other subjects that will command the attention of the office of the commissioner.
I have just discussed the key areas of focus that lie ahead for the office of the commissioner and that will require leadership, experience, openness and impartiality. Therefore, it is with confidence, fully aware of the challenges but resolutely focused on the future, that I am prepared to assume the role of commissioner of official languages.
Thank you for your attention. I would be pleased to answer your questions.