Evidence of meeting #29 for Official Languages in the 43rd Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was english.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Robert Leckey  Dean and Full Professor, Samuel Gale Chair, Faculty of Law, McGill University, As an Individual
Anne Meggs  Former Director of Research, Office québécois de la langue française, As an Individual
Denis Bolduc  General Secretary, Fédération des travailleurs et travailleuses du Québec
Gilles Grondin  Union Advisor, Fédération des travailleurs et travailleuses du Québec
Lucie Lecomte  Committee Researcher

April 29th, 2021 / 5 p.m.

Liberal

Soraya Martinez Ferrada Liberal Hochelaga, QC

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

I'll be sharing my time with my colleagues Ms. Lattanzio and Ms. Lalonde.

I'd like to go back to the immigration question. The Coalition Avenir Québec, or CAQ, has issued a report on this, the Samson report. In that report, it noted that 43% of newcomers, or immigrants, to Quebec and to Montreal didn't speak French. That was the case of 55% of economic immigrants.

I'd like to hear what the representatives of the FTQ and the Office de la langue française have to say about the connections among francization, the economic integration of immigrants and the French fact. How will we make sure we protect French in the circumstances?

Could you also discuss the initiatives you've taken and what you'd like to see added to the white paper on this subject?

5 p.m.

Union Advisor, Fédération des travailleurs et travailleuses du Québec

Gilles Grondin

I can answer those questions.

Immigrant francization is really a significant factor that must be considered for the future of French in Quebec. We won't deny that. We also have to ensure that Bill 101 is enforced in the schools for immigrant children, who represent a significant contribution. There are also all kinds of considerations. For example, I was talking about the ambiguity of the message the Canadian government sends regarding the English fact. We have to make sure no one challenges the fact that it all happens in French in the workplace in Quebec. That'll be a major contribution to the quality and vitality of French.

I think it'll be extremely important to maintain French language rights and to ensure no undue challenges are raised to the French fact. We'll work together with the unions.

We have to ensure that Bill 101 contains provisions on the inclusion of working conditions for workers respecting francization. That should therefore be included in francization committee discussions. We think these are important points that must be brought forward.

Does that answer your question, Ms. Martinez Ferrada?

5 p.m.

Liberal

Soraya Martinez Ferrada Liberal Hochelaga, QC

Yes, but you may forward any further comments you may have in writing at a later date.

As you said earlier, the immigration issue remains an important factor in maintaining French. We have to ensure that francization in the immigration component is supported in future, particularly by the union and management, as it affects all aspects pertaining to working equipment and labour.

5:05 p.m.

Union Advisor, Fédération des travailleurs et travailleuses du Québec

Gilles Grondin

The next challenge will indeed be to work on the francization of all aspects affecting workers, even beyond the working equipment they need to do so, as you put it.

5:05 p.m.

Liberal

Soraya Martinez Ferrada Liberal Hochelaga, QC

Exactly. Thank you.

Ms. Meggs, could you give us a brief answer so that I can pass some of my speaking time on to my colleagues?

5:05 p.m.

Former Director of Research, Office québécois de la langue française, As an Individual

Anne Meggs

I'll only mention two things, even though there are many others that need to be addressed.

I believe that a shift is beginning for immigration. Immigration occurs in two stages, with people starting out as temporary residents, and then becoming permanent residents.

For temporary residents, there are no language requirements. I would therefore like to suggest that if there is to be a new agreement between the federal government and the Quebec government, it should be a French proficiency requirement for temporary residents as soon as they arrive. That would be helpful.

It has already been suggested to the government that everyone in the process of becoming citizens of Quebec should have a knowledge of French. This would send out the strong message that to be a Quebec citizen, you need to be able to speak French.

5:05 p.m.

Liberal

Soraya Martinez Ferrada Liberal Hochelaga, QC

Excuse me, Ms. Meggs. I've previously taken a position on this in the House. I myself am an immigrant who did not speak French when I became a Canadian citizen.

The issue under discussion is francization, but I'd be very happy to discuss this with you.

Over to you, Ms. Lattanzio and Ms. Lalonde.

5:05 p.m.

Liberal

Marie-France Lalonde Liberal Orléans, ON

Thank you very much, Ms. Martinez Ferrada.

I'd also like to thank all the witnesses.

My question is for Ms. Meggs.

Ms. Meggs, I'd like to tell you about a few important points from a report published by the Office québécois de la langue française, the OQLF, entitled "Indicateurs de suivi de la situation linguistique. Langues utilisées au travail". The report covers the period from 2001 to 2016.

For language used most frequently at work, the OQLF reports that in more than 20 boroughs, over half of respondents used mainly French at work. In the west and centre of Montreal Island, English is more frequently used.

Given that these trends vary from one borough to another, and that Montreal Island is anything but a homogeneous entity, how are these variations in the use of language to be addressed?

5:05 p.m.

Former Director of Research, Office québécois de la langue française, As an Individual

Anne Meggs

There are certainly areas of concentration. The message remains the same: ideally, conversations should be in French. It's up to francophones to stop switching into English whenever an anglophone colleague is present. According to the same data, the majority of anglophones can carry on a conversation in French.

There should also be more francization in the workplace for immigrants. Businesses should be helping immigrants who are more proficient in English to learn French.

5:05 p.m.

Liberal

Marie-France Lalonde Liberal Orléans, ON

Thank you.

I'll give the floor to Ms. Lattanzio now.

5:05 p.m.

Liberal

Patricia Lattanzio Liberal Saint-Léonard—Saint-Michel, QC

Thank you.

I too would like to inform committee members that I had always, from childhood onwards, studied in English. And then, one day, I found myself studying law at a francophone university in Quebec.

I believe that it's extremely beneficial to be able to speak both of this great country's languages.

Once again, the last question is for Prof. Leckey.

With regard to the overlap of the linguistic regimes, can you—

5:05 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Emmanuel Dubourg

Ms. Lattanzio, you have 15 seconds left.

5:10 p.m.

Liberal

Patricia Lattanzio Liberal Saint-Léonard—Saint-Michel, QC

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Mr. Leckey, we spoke at length today.

about the overlap of linguistic regimes, so the last question is again for you. Can you speak to the jurisdiction of each level of government with regard to official languages?

5:10 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Emmanuel Dubourg

Ms. Lattanzio, I apologize once again for interrupting. I left you enough time to ask your question, but the seven minutes are up.

The three colleagues were able to speak. I have to stop you there and give the floor to Mr. Beaulieu for seven minutes.

5:10 p.m.

Liberal

Patricia Lattanzio Liberal Saint-Léonard—Saint-Michel, QC

Sorry for being so inept, Mr. Chair, but since my speaking time is up, could I ask the witness to give us his answer in writing?

5:10 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Emmanuel Dubourg

Yes, of course. That's why I gave you enough time to ask your question. If the witness would like to send a brief or any additional information, we will gladly take these into consideration.

Mr. Beaulieu, you have the floor for seven minutes.

5:10 p.m.

Bloc

Mario Beaulieu Bloc La Pointe-de-l'Île, QC

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

I'm going to begin with the killer question.

Mr. Leckey refers often to the Constitution. I'd like to know what the other witnesses think about this, because equality of status has never worked. The Official Languages Act came into force 52 years ago, but French has continued to decline everywhere. English remains the predominant language in federal institutions, even when these are located in Quebec.

My question is for everyone.

In 1982, the Canadian majority imposed the Constitution on the Quebec minority. The Charter of the French Language was weakened under this Constitution in all areas of application. All the federal government did was strength English in Quebec.

What do you think of this state of affairs? Does anyone want to field my question?

5:10 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Emmanuel Dubourg

Who is the question for?

5:10 p.m.

Bloc

Mario Beaulieu Bloc La Pointe-de-l'Île, QC

It's for all three.

5:10 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Emmanuel Dubourg

Who should answer first?

5:10 p.m.

Bloc

Mario Beaulieu Bloc La Pointe-de-l'Île, QC

Let's begin with Ms. Meggs.

5:10 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Emmanuel Dubourg

Okay. Thank you.

Ms. Meggs, you have the floor.

5:10 p.m.

Former Director of Research, Office québécois de la langue française, As an Individual

Anne Meggs

It's clear that the Official Languages Act and some parts of the Canadian Constitution have been impeding Quebec's efforts to strengthen the French language in the province.

5:10 p.m.

Bloc

Mario Beaulieu Bloc La Pointe-de-l'Île, QC

If no one else wants to answer, I' ll give an example.

The Official Languages Act is based on a constitutional principle that cannot guarantee the survival of linguistic minorities. In all countries that have several national languages, the only ones in which assimilation doesn't occur are those where territorial institutional bilingualism is practised. For example, in Switzerland and Belgium, there is only one common language in each designated territory. Working in the language of one's choice does not work. When someone wants to work in English but his colleague wants to work in French, what happens? There has to be a common language.

5:10 p.m.

Former Director of Research, Office québécois de la langue française, As an Individual

Anne Meggs

I believe that while the French language is not strong enough in Quebec, it will become even more vulnerable elsewhere in Canada. It's crucial to maintain a kind of bastion for French wherever the critical mass allows for it. Afterwards, we can point to the fact that there are francophones in other parts of Canada besides Quebec, and that under Canada's Constitution, these Francophones need support. But without a bastion of French in Quebec, it will be very difficult to ensure the vitality of French elsewhere in Canada.