Thank you, Mr. Chair.
I would like to be given the same privilege as my colleague Mr. Choquette and go back to the first motion, the one that was defeated. He went back to that motion and then spoke about the second motion.
However, before discussing those matters, I would like to say that the Standing Committee on Official Languages, which I have had the honour to be a part of since last year, is a very good committee. I consider that it is the best committee. The people who are a part of it are people of good will and good faith.
I understand that the imminent nomination may displease some people and please others, but I must go refer the Official Languages Act, which tells us how the Commissioner of Official Languages is to be appointed, and how long the mandate is to last. At the risk of repeating myself, this is in section 49 of the Official Languages Act.
As for Mr. Choquette's motion, I understand what he is going through. However, the famous Language Skills Act does say that the appointee “at the time of his or her appointment”, must be able to speak and understand both official languages. The appointee must meet those criteria. This was already taken into account by the selection committee. A process was followed which led to this imminent nomination.
This may not be deliberate on the part of Mr. Choquette and Mr. Généreux, but in my opinion, people are trying to go through the back door. Last week, Mr. Choquette told us that we had no business attacking the process and that interfering in it was not a part of our mandate.
The Language Skills Act applies to high level appointments. I will list the positions the act applies to: the Auditor General of Canada; the Chief Electoral Officer; the Commissioner of Official Languages for Canada; the Privacy Commissioner; the Information Commissioner; the Senate Ethics Officer; the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner; the Commissioner of Lobbying; the Public Sector Integrity Commissioner, and the President of the Public Service Commission.
In reference to this prior condition regarding language skills, section 2 reads as follows:
The person appointed to any of the following offices must at the time of his or her appointment be able to speak and understand clearly both official languages:
That is what the Language Skills Act says. I am basing my comments on the act, and I remember that Mrs. Boucher said that all candidates had passed the language skills test. The skills assessment has thus been done.
This motion interferes in the process and tries to do better than what is already in place. The process was followed by the selection committee, and we have nothing to say about that. That is not the role of the Standing Committee on Official Languages.
I am repeating myself, and I understand the frustration of certain members and certain citizens. I also understand the satisfaction or lack of satisfaction people may feel regarding this nomination.
Once again, I think you are trying to use the back door to do what you cannot do through the front door. You want to attack the process, the selection committee or the steps involved in the selection. The selection committee assessed -- I will repeat it -- 72 candidates before it finally made a choice.
Those were my thoughts about the first motion. I wanted to benefit from the same privilege as my colleague Mr. Choquette, that is to say to go back to the first motion, which was defeated.
The purpose of the second motion is again to interfere in the process, since its goal is to invite witnesses to assess Ms. Meilleur's abilities. Did we invite witnesses to assess the abilities of the Auditor General? To my knowledge that was not done. Did we invite witnesses to assess the abilities of the previous Official Languages Commissioners? To my knowledge that was never done. Once again, this would be interfering in the selection process that led to Ms. Meilleur's nomination. For the same reasons as for the first motion, I object to this one.
Mr. Généreux, I understand what you are saying, and I understand what Mr. Choquette and Mrs. Boucher are saying. However, you are trying to use the back door because you could not get through the front door. You want to interfere in the selection process; that is what you want to do.
I did not listen to the Senate debate last evening because I had to be at a committee meeting, but Mrs. Boucher, you were there. Someone who was present during Ms. Meilleur's appearance at the Senate said that everyone without exception—as was the case here as well—recognized that Ms. Meilleur has the necessary qualifications, and that that was not the issue. However, the concerns centre around the process or the way in which the nomination was made. Of course that is only hearsay, and you must take it with a grain of salt. I am simply repeating something that someone who was present during Ms. Meilleur's appearance before the Senate said to me.
The real question is the following: Does Ms. Meilleur have the skills to do this work? Does her appearance before the committee, as well as her curriculum vitae, allow us to believe that she will be able to do this work?
Personally, I am convinced that our committee should not interfere in the process. I am not saying that we do not have a role to play as members of Parliament, since ultimately it is the House of Commons and the Senate that will make the decision. In light of that, we can make our voices heard and express our satisfaction or dissatisfaction with regard to this nomination. However, the Standing Committee on Official Languages as such does not have this role people are trying to give it, to allow it to interfere in the selection process. If that were our role, we would have been in the front row from the beginning of the selection process.