Evidence of meeting #73 for Official Languages in the 42nd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was questions.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Yvan Déry  Senior Director, Policy and Research, Official Languages Branch, Department of Canadian Heritage
Johanne Denis  Director General, Census Subject Matter, Social and Demographic Statistics, Statistics Canada
Jean-Pierre Corbeil  Assistant Director, Social and Aboriginal Statistics Division, Statistics Canada
Pierre Foucher  Professor, Faculty of Law, University of Ottawa, As an Individual

4:20 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Denis Paradis

Mr. Généreux, go ahead.

4:20 p.m.

Conservative

Bernard Généreux Conservative Montmagny—L'Islet—Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup, QC

Ms. Denis, you mentioned earlier the electronic version of the census and the fact that 70% of people choose to fill out that version.

Is it possible, with the technology available nowadays—I am not talking about Phoenix, quite the contrary—to adapt the census to specific regions? We agree that the forms are the same for everyone in the country, that the same questions are put to everyone.

Would it be possible in the future to adapt the questionnaire—either by region, or in another way—so that a modified form would be used in regions and small villages with no Internet access, such as Mr. Vandal's region. That could make it possible to collect much more specific data. It is easy to do that electronically, and people only have to click on an option for three other questions to appear, which is impossible to do on paper.

If that is an option, it could open up the possibility of going much further, and in a much more specific manner, when it comes to the questions we want to put to some individuals regarding rights they may have, but of which they are unaware.

4:20 p.m.

Director General, Census Subject Matter, Social and Demographic Statistics, Statistics Canada

Johanne Denis

That's an excellent question.

4:20 p.m.

Assistant Director, Social and Aboriginal Statistics Division, Statistics Canada

Jean-Pierre Corbeil

It is an excellent question. We are obviously looking at that very carefully. However, what you need to keep in mind and understand is that the order of questions is crucial, because the answers have to be compared.

I will give you an example. If we are looking for something specific concerning part of the population, or certain municipalities, and we add three or four questions between two questions other concerned citizens will answer, we could end up with answers that may have been influenced by those new questions.

What we are trying to determine is whether there is a way to create supplements to questions to target specific populations based on various characteristics, but without breaking up the continuity or order of questions all Canadians must answer.

4:20 p.m.

Conservative

Bernard Généreux Conservative Montmagny—L'Islet—Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup, QC

That can currently be done electronically.

4:20 p.m.

Assistant Director, Social and Aboriginal Statistics Division, Statistics Canada

Jean-Pierre Corbeil

Yes, exactly.

4:20 p.m.

Conservative

Bernard Généreux Conservative Montmagny—L'Islet—Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup, QC

Earlier, Mr. Vandal asked you whether the committee meetings will be public. I'm not sure I understood the answer.

Apparently, we will find out who the members of the committee will be within two or three weeks. Is that correct?

October 3rd, 2017 / 4:20 p.m.

Director General, Census Subject Matter, Social and Demographic Statistics, Statistics Canada

Johanne Denis

Yes. We will know who the members are.

4:20 p.m.

Conservative

Bernard Généreux Conservative Montmagny—L'Islet—Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup, QC

Will the committee's proceedings be public?

4:20 p.m.

Director General, Census Subject Matter, Social and Demographic Statistics, Statistics Canada

Johanne Denis

That's a great question. It will be necessary to balance public information requirements with committee business confidentiality. I can't answer yes or no. We will see as the committee's work progresses. The committee will advise the chief statistician, so that means the confidentiality of the committee's work is protected by Statistics Canada or the Statistics Act. What we can do is see what can be made public and what can be shared.

4:20 p.m.

Conservative

Bernard Généreux Conservative Montmagny—L'Islet—Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup, QC

I have a subquestion for you in that case.

Would it be possible or feasible to share information that may be heard in camera, or in the course of private proceedings, with the Standing Committee on Official Languages? The official languages committee regularly meets in camera. That way, we could follow the committee's proceedings.

Many of us share the same questions and concerns. I'm not normally a worrier, and I sleep fairly well at night. I do, however, tell those who are worried that we, on the Standing Committee on Official Languages, have taken the initiative to start this discussion. I want to say to Mr. Samson publicly that he was a key player in raising this whole issue involving rights holders. We owe him a debt of gratitude.

The committee held meetings, conducted consultations, and heard from distinguished and smart witnesses who delivered valuable presentations. It seems to me, then, that it would be beneficial for us to have the opportunity to follow the proceedings. Perhaps we could even provide you with some additional insight, without, of course, getting involved. The committee could perhaps make recommendations based on comments made in the course of your proceedings.

We are able to work together on a confidential basis.

4:25 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Denis Paradis

Thank you, Mr. Généreux.

I'd just like to point out a few things.

We are talking about not just the survival of minority francophone communities across the country, but also their development. You are playing an essential role in the survival and development of all francophone communities.

As I sit here and listen, I sometimes get the sense that you hear us but that you aren't listening. That's the impression I'm getting up here.

I want to repeat a point I made during a previous meeting. In the fall of 2019, Canada will have a federal election. According to your timeline, you plan to bring your proposed questions to cabinet in 2019, during the election campaign. That worries me. In 2019, cabinet will have other things on its plate besides approving, rejecting, or changing the questions you will have proposed. You are telling us, members of Parliament, that we will find out the results in 2020 or so, after the election in fall 2019, if that is indeed when it takes place.

In order to dispel some of the uncertainty felt by the people at this table, I'd like to ask you something. In the next six months, would you be able to put forward one or more questions related to paragraphs 23(1)(a) and (b) and subsection 23(2) of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms? You could always rework them afterwards; I wouldn't object to that. By March 31, though, I'd like you to provide us with sample questions addressing paragraphs 23(1)(a) and (b) and subsection 23(2).

4:25 p.m.

Assistant Director, Social and Aboriginal Statistics Division, Statistics Canada

Jean-Pierre Corbeil

All I can say about that is that we have already given the committee members the questions that were used to enumerate rights holders in the post-census survey on the vitality of official language minorities, conducted in 2006.

According to the advice we received, we needed between eight and 12 questions to measure the number of rights holders. What I mean is that, in order to be able to measure that number in accordance with section 23 of the charter, we have to be able to determine whether the individuals are Canadian citizens. That question is currently part of the census. Questions on mother tongue are also included. The other questions are not nearly a page long, as some have suggested, and they have already been asked.

4:25 p.m.

Director General, Census Subject Matter, Social and Demographic Statistics, Statistics Canada

Johanne Denis

They have been tested.

4:25 p.m.

Assistant Director, Social and Aboriginal Statistics Division, Statistics Canada

Jean-Pierre Corbeil

What's more, they have already been tested for the purposes of the 2006 survey. We can send you the questions.

I put them to legal experts. For instance, I asked whether, in the question stating that the parent must have attended elementary school in French in Canada, it was also necessary to specify the duration of attendance. They told me that they didn't know yet.

4:25 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Denis Paradis

Mr. Corbeil, I fully understand the difficulties you are raising.

I'm asking you something very tangible and specific. By March 31, we'd like to receive one or two sample questions related to the issue we are interested in here, in other words, questions about section 23 of the charter.

4:25 p.m.

Assistant Director, Social and Aboriginal Statistics Division, Statistics Canada

Jean-Pierre Corbeil

You can't have one or two questions to enumerate rights holders under section 23 of the charter.

4:25 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Denis Paradis

You scare me when you say that.

4:25 p.m.

Assistant Director, Social and Aboriginal Statistics Division, Statistics Canada

Jean-Pierre Corbeil

Mr. Chair, I say it because they were already tested in 2006, with 5,000 respondents in Canada, outside Quebec. We didn't conduct some thoughtless survey.

All we are saying is that, if the objective—which we take very seriously—is to fully enumerate rights holders in accordance with the three criteria set out in section 23 of the charter, we have to make sure that all the questions are asked.

I can send you the questions that were asked in the post-census survey. We will endeavour to ask the same questions.

4:25 p.m.

Director General, Census Subject Matter, Social and Demographic Statistics, Statistics Canada

Johanne Denis

We will endeavour to make them shorter.

4:25 p.m.

Assistant Director, Social and Aboriginal Statistics Division, Statistics Canada

Jean-Pierre Corbeil

If it's possible to make them shorter and ask fewer questions, we will.

4:25 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Denis Paradis

You could do that within the six-month time frame I mentioned. You would have until March 31.

4:25 p.m.

Assistant Director, Social and Aboriginal Statistics Division, Statistics Canada

Jean-Pierre Corbeil

We could send you some hypothetical questions, but they won't have been tested.

4:25 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Denis Paradis

All right. I'll discuss it with my colleagues.

In the meantime, thank you for your input today.

I will now suspend the meeting momentarily.

4:36 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Denis Paradis

Pursuant to Standing Order 108(3)(f), we are continuing our study of Air Canada's implementation of the Official Languages Act.

We are pleased to have as a witness today Pierre Foucher, a professor in the civil law section of the faculty of law at the University of Ottawa.

Welcome Professor Foucher. I, myself, am a civil law graduate from the University of Ottawa. It's certainly a pleasure to have you with us today. You will have about 10 minutes for your presentation, after which, we will move into questions and comments from committee members, as per usual practice.

I'd like to advise everyone that the meeting will be ending at a quarter or 20 after five this afternoon. A vote is scheduled for a quarter to six, and the bells will ring at around a quarter after five. Furthermore, since we need five minutes to discuss committee business in camera before the end of the meeting, I'm going to make some minor adjustments to the schedule as needed.

Professor Foucher, over to you.