Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Thank you for inviting me to meet with the committee today. This is the first time I have appeared in a committee in person. It is a privilege to be with you.
I'm pleased to be joined today, as the chair has mentioned, by the following representatives from Transport Canada: Serge Bijimine, assistant deputy minister, policy; Tamara Rudge, director general, surface transportation policy; and Colin Stacey, director general, air policy.
Mr. Chair, our official languages are at the heart of our country.
Our official languages are at the heart of our country, and French is at the heart of the Quebec nation.
That's why I'm pleased to be here today to speak about our government's commitment to protecting both official languages in the federally regulated transportation sector.
We believe that all Canadians deserve to be served in the official language of their choice by federally regulated businesses. In addition, we agree that employees of federally regulated private sector companies like CN Rail have a right to work in French.
Quebeckers must be able to work in French in Quebec.
In fact, as a former Crown corporation, CN's services are subject to the Official Languages Act.
For all of these reasons, we agree that the lack of francophone directors on CN Rail's board is unacceptable.
We have spoken with CN representatives and made it clear that we expect them to correct this lapse as soon as possible.
In fact, CN has agreed to address the situation during the next round of board appointments this year and has already begun searching for a francophone, Quebec-based board member.
In addition, we are working on modernizing the Official Languages Act to ensure that it reflects the current situation in Canada and promotes real equality between English and French.
Through Bill C-13, we're proposing changes to several provisions relating to private enterprises under the federal jurisdiction in Quebec and in other regions with a strong francophone presence. These changes would strengthen official language rights by making sure private companies in those regions provide French-language services to consumers, respect the language rights of their employees and promote the use of French in their workplaces.
The passage of Bill C‑13 will enhance the use of French and promote genuine equality between our two official languages.
Above all, these proposed changes would give the Commissioner of Official Languages new enforcement tools, including the ability to impose financial penalties.
The Commissioner of Official Languages will have more powers.