Good morning, esteemed members of the honourable institution of the House of Commons.
I am obviously very pleased to have the opportunity to help you with your study. That said, my political convictions and my experience as a champion of the French language lead me to believe, in light of the past, that the federal state will never be able to adopt a legislative framework that will allow the francophone nation of America, our nation, to flourish and allow French not only to survive and be promoted, but also to expand and prosper.
I was disappointed to see the first version of the reforms to the Official Languages Act. While these reforms are clearly necessary, they do not convince me that the federal state has understood the urgency of the situation and, as the previous witness said, the need to right the wrongs that were systematically committed against francophones everywhere in Canada.
I won't go over all the legislative history, which is utterly reprehensible.
I can give you concrete examples, such as the appointment of the Governor General, which was not in keeping with the spirit of the Canadian Constitution and the Official Languages Act. That person is the representative of the head of the Canadian state and despite her impeccable CV, she does not speak one of the two official languages of Canada. I'll let you to guess which one.
We've also seen the provinces act unilaterally and unfavourably towards the francophone community. Take, for example, the closure of the vast majority of programs offered at the Laurentian University. A mere 20 years ago, there was the attempt to close the Montfort Hospital.
Basically, francophone communities everywhere in Canada have always been subject to a certain form of discrimination, and it is hard to see how the current reforms to the Official Languages Act will be able to right the wrongs, given that they are based on false premises.
Firstly, an approach based on the individual, rather than on the territory, such as the approach championed by Quebec's Charter of the French Language, is an approach that has never ever in the history of the world allowed a minority language to prosper. An approach based on the individual that allows a minority language to prosper does not exist.
Even in Quebec, where French is the majority language, we can see that the federal government's approach, which is the systematic bilingualization of public services within Quebec, is not working.
Then there is the federal government's inability to abide by the current version of the Official Languages Act. Year after year, Canada's Commissioner of Official Languages submits highly critical reports on the federal government's management of the act. In Ottawa, there is a joke that says there are two official languages in Canada: English, obviously, and French translated into English. We do not believe that these problems will be solved by the current reforms, because profound changes are needed.
Solutions do exist, however.
We could, for example, set up a broadcasting and telecommunication council in Quebec. That would mean handing over to Quebec the responsibility of managing broadcasting and communications, which could be a good solution.
We should also recognize the asymmetrical situation of French and English. May I remind you that under international law, anglophones in Quebec do not constitute a linguistic minority, both figuratively and literally. The United Nations High Commissioner stated in a decision that it did not recognize the minority status of Quebec's anglophone community.
Other solutions are available. The Charter of the French Language could take precedence over the Official Languages Act. We could also, as I said earlier, adopt an asymmetrical approach recognizing French as the only official language that is struggling everywhere in Canada.
I will be pleased to answer your questions over the next hour.