Good afternoon, and thank you for this invitation to come and speak to you about Bill C‑13.
I would particularly like to thank and say hello to Mr. Beaulieu, whom I have been fortunate to meet. I would also like to say hello to my member of Parliament, the MP for Sherbrooke, Élisabeth Brière.
I will start with a review of a fundamental principle in law and in language policy. There are two major models: the model based on territoriality, where there is one language within a territory, and the model based on personality, where there are multiple official languages and each person chooses the language in which they want to receive services from the state.
I have found in my work that the studies are extremely clear, not to say unanimous: only the territorial approach, based on the idea of one official language per territory, can save a vulnerable language. It is therefore extremely important that there be one official language in Quebec, as set out in the Charter of the French Language. The federal government must align its policy with that Quebec policy based on territoriality insofar as possible.
I will illustrate this with a very concrete example. In Switzerland, where the territoriality-based model was adopted, the percentage of francophones rose from 18.4 to 22.9 per cent between 1970 and 2017: the francophone population of Switzerland increased by 4.5 per cent. In Canada, on the other hand, the francophone population fell from 25 to 20 per cent in the same years, a decline of 5 per cent. Obviously, other factors are in play, but it appears plain that the language policy model is the determining factor.
These are the considerations in light of which I study Bill C‑13. In my opinion, the bill must do more to reflect territoriality, in order to provide more protection for French in Quebec, which does not prevent application of the model based on personality in the other provinces. The model based on territoriality is essential for a vulnerable language, and more must absolutely be done for French in Quebec.
However, when the majority language is not vulnerable, like English in the other provinces, and to a lesser extent in Quebec, the personality-based approach, such as when services in French are offered in the other provinces, is not a problem, because English does not need the territorial approach.
The other major principle we must understand is asymmetry. We have to stop putting the situation of francophones in the other provinces on equal footing with the situation of anglophones in Quebec. After the last census, we saw the point to which French had declined everywhere in Canada, including in Quebec, with no equivalent decline in English. We must therefore consider asymmetry. The bill contains passages that support asymmetry and other passages that support symmetry. Bill C‑13 therefore needs to be much better realigned toward asymmetry. An asymmetric approach is needed in order to do more for French in Quebec, but also in the other provinces.
For example, in the new section 41(6)(c) proposed by Bill C‑13, it talks about the importance to linguistic minorities of having strong postsecondary institutions. That provision puts the situation of English Canadians and French Canadians on equal footing, when the reality is quite different.
Anglophone postsecondary institutions and research in English in Quebec are overfunded, while research in French is accordingly underfunded, and this affects me considerably as an academic. When I read that in the bill, I said to myself that the federal government is going to continue overfunding research in English and underfunding research in French. That is something that Bill C‑14 should correct. Asymmetry and the territorial model really need to be given precedence.
It is worth noting that Bill C‑13 enacts the Use of French in Federally Regulated Private Businesses Act. That is a step toward territoriality, because the intention is to protect the right to work in French and obtain services in French in Quebec and in majority francophone regions, which are essentially located in the areas surrounding Quebec. That is a very attractive territorial approach that holds up, scientifically, and could even make it possible to save French.
However, what is less desirable in this bill is that the Use of French in Federally Regulated Private Businesses Act proposes weaker protection of French than is offered by the Charter of the French Language. If the idea is to substitute that federal law for Bill 101, it is a step backward for French in Quebec. However, if that federal law is applied outside Quebec, it is more attractive.
We must also not forget that in Quebec, expertise in respect of support for private enterprises in language matters is the responsibility of the Office québécois de la langue française. We should therefore allow the Office to continue to play its role in Quebec. In the other regions, it could allow federal agencies to take its place.